Plant propagation

Answers to Your Questions: Making Cuttings of a Weeping Willow


I planted a weeping willow that has dried out, but is producing regrowth at the base. I cut 3 stems in water in September and they took root, but the leaves that appeared have since dried out. When can I transfer them to the garden? Also, could I let one stem grow from the original plant, eliminating the others to make a new trunk?


The common weeping willow (Salix x sepulcralis chrysocoma, formerly S. alba ‘Tristis’ or S. babylonica ‘Trisits’) rarely does well in our northern regions, being very prone to disease in our fairly rainy climate. In general, it loses a lot of branches, grows without much vigor and doesn’t become as full and beautiful as the specimens we see further west, where summers are drier. So my first suggestion would be to tell you to get a weeping willow better suited to our conditions, like the ‘Prairie Cascade’ willow (S. ‘Prairie Cascade’), which seems to grow wonderfully here.

Photo: scrisman

How Do You Maintain Your Original Weeping Willow?

On the other hand, if you want to try and maintain your original weeping willow, here are a few ideas.

It’s true that you can start willow cuttings in water, but you mustn’t leave them there for too long. As soon as the little white bumps that are the future roots appear on the stems, transfer the cuttings to potting soil. In your case, the roots are now well developed, but they are water roots. It will be difficult to transfer the plants to a terrestrial environment, as the roots will probably not adapt to this very different environment.

Also, it’s not wise to keep an outdoor plant in the house all winter. Drying out the leaves of your cuttings is the result of two factors: the excessively dry air in our homes at this time of year, and out-of-season growth. Indeed, willow should normally be dormant at this time of year, whereas cuttings have stimulated leaf production in winter. Not surprisingly, the plant was “confused” by this inversion of the seasons and fell back into dormancy.

Weeping Willow Cuttings in Spring

For these reasons, I think you’d be better off taking more cuttings from your weeping willow this spring, this time doing them directly in a pot filled with moist potting soil rather than in water. As soon as the pot is full of roots, transplant the cuttings into the ground in a sunny, preferably damp spot, or near water (weeping willows should be kept at least 25 m (80 ft.) away from buildings to prevent their invasive roots from damaging pipes). To form a beautiful trunk, it would be helpful to remove all secondary growth from the ground and stake the main stem for 2 or 3 years. After that, your tree should be able to support itself.

Alternatively, you could let one stem grow from your original willow and eliminate the others, again to let it form a single trunk.

Larry Hodgson a publié des milliers d’articles et 65 livres au cours de sa carrière, en français et en anglais. Son fils, Mathieu, s’est donné pour mission de rendre les écrits de son père accessibles au public. Ce texte a été publié à l’origine dans le journal Le Soleil le 26 mars 2006.

Garden writer and blogger, author of 65 gardening books, lecturer and communicator, the Laidback Gardener, Larry Hodgson, passed away in October 2022. Known for his great generosity, his thoroughness and his sense of humor, he reached several generations of amateur and professional gardeners over his 40-year career. Thanks to his son, Mathieu Hodgson, and a team of contributors, will continue its mission of demystifying gardening and making it more accessible to all.

1 comment on “Answers to Your Questions: Making Cuttings of a Weeping Willow

  1. Your writing style is captivating, I couldn’t stop reading.

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